Kelton Zbarcha's education makes him feel whole

Student hopes to become a dahlia breeder to help improve the specialty cut flower industry.

Kelton Zbarcha is a student in the Fruit, Vegetable and Organic Horticulture Management certificate program through the Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT).

For the last seven years, he has been working in the horticultural industry. In that time, he says he gained knowledge and skills from that experience, but he felt incomplete because he did not have a college education and he did not have any formal horticultural education. When Kelton became aware of the certificate programs the MSU Department of Horticulture offered through the IAT, he felt like that is what he needed to become whole.

What has been the best experience in your program so far?

This is a difficult question to answer given the current circumstances brought by the COVID-19 shutdown. I would have loved to be on campus so I could complete lab work and meet all my professors in person. That said, the best experience so far was being a student in Dr. Roberto Lopez’s Greenhouse Structures and Management course. I loved the level of research experience and passion Dr. Lopez brought to each lecture.

What is the best selling point about your major that you would like others to know?

The passionate educators. Course work is made more enjoyable and rewarding when my professors feel as passionate about horticulture as I do. It feels like I am doing more than just receiving an education for myself: instead it feels like there is also a collaborative effort to help benefit not just myself or the horticultural industry, but everything else that surrounds us.

What are your future plans?

One of my goals is to become a successful dahlia breeder. I have experience in the specialty cut flower industry and I would like to breed new cultivars that help improve that industry. I would also like to introduce new dahlias with dark foliage and stems. Cultivars with dark foliage and stems are so striking in the garden, and I would love to increase the number of these cultivars to help give gardeners a greater selection.

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